Personnel: Ben Folds (piano); Darren Jessee (drums).
Audio Mixer: Joe Costa.
Photographer: Ben Folds.
It took 20 years (and a reunion album) for Ben Folds Five to release a proper live album, and while the trio may not enjoy the same levels of athleticism that they did in their twenties, they've certainly lost nothing in the chops department. Recorded during their 2012-2013 tour in support of their fourth studio album, 2012's Sound of the Life and Mind, and culled from performances in the United States, England, Japan, Canada, and Australia, Ben Folds Five Live captures the group at their most professionally laid-back. Folds cuts an enigmatic figure in print, but on-stage he's clearly in his element, and when he launches into BFF favorites like "Underground," "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces," "Narcolepsy," "Brick," and "Jackson Cannery," the fans reward him appropriately. Even more recent cuts like "Erase Me" and "Do It Anyway" manage to connect, due in large part to the fact that Folds never really changed his sound all that much after amicably dissolving the band in 2000 and embarking on a successful solo career, which is probably why the sans Five selection "Landed" fits so seamlessly into the set. The group's "amicable" breakup seems genuine enough, as Folds, Robert Sledge, and Darren Jessee, at least on these recordings, sound like longtime friends doing what they love rather than three disparate entities looking for some extra scratch to diversify their portfolios, and while it may be a bit of a pre-2013 tour advert/cash grab, like all Folds-related products, it's certainly not without its charms. ~ James Christopher Monger